Thinking about an author’s needs

by Suw on October 17, 2011

The whole discussion about what the British Fantasy Society could morph into after its recent crisis set me to thinking about what, as an emerging author, I need and where I get those needs met (if I do at all). I’m a bit of an edge case, because right now I’m more interested in getting my stuff read by giving it away and binding my own books than sending manuscripts off to agents and publishers. (Not that I wouldn’t welcome that conversation should it occur, but I’m not actively seeking it at this point.) So that possibly makes my list rather different to that of other writes, but I thought i’d share it anyway.

1. Readers
The thing that I need the most – and I think this is quite a common need amongst writers of every genre and at every stage of their career – is readers. Most of my readers so far have come via my Kickstarter project and Twitter. It’s tough getting your stuff in front of enough people to build a significant readership, and anything that helps with that is useful. Of course, I can pimp Argleton to as many people as follow me on Twitter, read my blog, or whathaveyou, but a recommendation by someone else is worth so much more. (Which is why, if you’ve read Argleton and liked it, you should feel free to review it on Amazon. ;) )There’s a lot still to do in terms of reaching more people, but finding readers will always be my biggest challenge.

2. Design and editorial
One thing I learnt doing Argleton is that I’m rubbish as design. The cover for Argleton looked awfully amateur, but I didn’t have the budget to hire someone to do a better job. My next book project will correct that error. I’d also love to hire a professional editor at some point, but I think that might have to wait.

But there’s a big trust issue, because you could easily spend a lot of time and even money working with someone only to discover that they really aren’t right for the project. I will likely start trying to find a cover artist via my existing contacts, but if that doesn’t work out I’ll have to investigate other options.

3. Peer review
If there’s one thing that’s incredibly valuable for any writer, it’s having a handful of people willing to read your first draft and tell you when you’re doing something wrong. There’s quite a lot of websites, like Zoetrope, that allow you to exchange your reviews of other people’s work for getting reviews of your own. It can be a bit hit-and-miss, however, as not everyone has a good feel for stories and ill-considered reviews can led you on wild goose chases. I’m lucky that Kevin has a really good head for story – it was he that pointed out that my original ending of Argleton sucked, and it was through discussing it with him that I figured out what needed to happen.

4. Technical expertise
If you have ever done battle with the epub format, you’ll know what I mean about sometimes needing a bit of technical expertise to drawn on. I’m quite a geek, but even so it takes a bit of a while to get your head round the tools you need to whip an ebook into shape. When you know what you’re doing, reformatting into mobi etc., is easy, but when you don’t it can be a bit of a pain. I’ve happily accepted help from a friend on this.

5. Typesetting oversight 
If you want your book to look good, you need to properly typeset it. Sticking it in Word and picking a pretty font isn’t good enough – it needs to look professional. I’m lucky in that I know the basics of typesetting and again, I have a friend with mad ninja skills whose experience I can draw upon.

I’m not sure this list is complete, but it’ll do for now. If you have suggestions for how I can meet some of these needs, or if yours are different, do feel free to let me know in the comments.

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